Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I skipped double poling practice this morning in favor of hitting Twin Brook or Pineland in the late afternoon, after a couple of inches had fallen. Big mistake, as I sat glued to the radar image all day, watching the entire storm pass a mere 2-3 pixels south of Portland. I'm thinking Appledore Island is the place to ski tomorrow.

So I went to Twin Brook and ran a double Craig Cup, but starting from the Greeley Rd. side. It was very, very hardpack with a dusting of powder, which provided just enough grip to not slip in my screwless shoes. WARNING! I finished by 5PM but was locked in and had to call the Cumberland police to let me out. The policeman was very nice.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Run, run go away

I guess I was too optimistic that I could hang up my running shoes for the winter as this morning was my 2nd "ultimate" run of the year. The FHS nordic team skated the pownal loop at Oak Hill yesterday. Indeed, "skated" is the key word as I think ice skates would have worked better than skate skis. The conditions unmasked all of my skiing deficiencies, of which there are many. It was depressing and I was in a foul mood the rest of the day. Today the nordic team did (running) hill repeat loops on Blackstrap. Tim Follo and I led the way with 7 laps. It was good; I love hill repeats. But skiing downhill after a hard climb is way more fun than running downhill after a hard climb, so I'm ready for tonight's predicted snow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ultimate run?

James Demer, Andrew Clemence, Mory-the-dog and I skipped Pineland this morning and, instead, ran James' version of the Rage mtb climb-o-rama. Part of this loop starred in the recent pair of Blackstrap Hell videos (and here). On the Hell side of the hill, there were no snowmobile tracks and we were running through 8-10" of fresh snow. The temp was low to mid 40's (I was running in shorts) but the snow was not slushy. This was all quite nice. We crossed Blackstrap rd. and did a short detour into the Hilfrank trails before returning to the snowmobile trails on the Skillins Tree farm side of the hill. The trails on this side had been packed by the snowmobiles and the snow was a little slicker and harder to run on. About 9 miles and lots of hill work. My legs are toast having not run in 12 days.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

High School Hill


Heart heavy,
In a busy chest
Eyes searching,
For the cruel hill’s crest
Limbs dancing,
Desperate for rest
Mere meters to go,
In the final test

Cold air, loose packed snow
Burning muscles, head to toe
Moving fast,
But feeling slow

Four month’s long strain
for such pain?
Absent is gain,
lest the peak is slain

The time has come,
As bundled onlookers cheer,
Below is a drop, mightily sheer,
Never has sweet rest been so dear

If you’ve never done it,
Never experienced the thrill
And the pain,
You can not know,
And I can only try to explain,
How it feels to reach the top
Of High School Hill,
On Black Mountain, in Maine

Published in the December Newsletter of the Maine Winter Sports Center. Jared Sleeper is a Caribou High School student. This poem was inspired by Black Mountain’s infamous High School Hill.

High School Hill (see p. 4) is at Black Mountain and is famous among Maine high school nordic skiers. I didn't ski it today but instead did a lot of V2 up our own high school hill; that there should tell you that our high school hill is a lot flatter! We didn't ski Pineland this morning because James had a mixed report from yesterday's skiers. The trails behind the high school were actually tougher for me than Oak Hill yesterday. Oak Hill had been skied flat and fast. The high school trail was uneven and a little tracked up. James moves through this with beautiful balance. I move through it like I have severe semicircular canal disfunction. But that's how we get better. It was a good workout (a little over 10 miles), both balance and fitness and fun to see all the kids make it to the optional practice. Pineland tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wicked fast at Oak Hill

The Oak Hill loop at Pineland Farms was wicked fast this afternoon. I did two core (no side) loops with Will, Tom, and Cacky, then two loops of the whole trail by myself. Well, not by myself as there were many other skiers, mostly families out for a good time. Conditions were wicked fast, which means a little slippery but not icy. Great day to work on the step turns, the V2 up the longer hills, and the V2 alternate on the flats (what flats?) and shallow downhills. It was wicked fun. I only hope that Oak Hill can hang on to the snow until the next storm.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Frostbite Update

I wrote recently about my frostbitten fingers following my ski down the Maple Mountain/Hall trails at Jackson NH. I was using the term loosely but, not knowing anything about frostbite, I wikipediaed it. While I don't have blisters, the superficial skin of both right and left middle fingers is dead. There is no edema deep to these so this skin sort of feels callused. Hmm. I'm pretty sure no amputation will be necessary. 

At least I was on skis...

Christmas eve was a classic exercise in time mismanagement. No skiing...or running, but I did discover where to find a hookah when we next redo our Turkish smoking room. Today I snuck in an hour at Twin Brook before Christmas Dinner at my brother-and-sister-in-laws. The fields need help. The woods are largely holding snow, except for the usual spot on the C loop, but there was a fair amount of debris including a small pine tree completely blocking the trail near the roller coasters on the B loop. The snow itself was frozen ice that had partially thawed into thick mashed potato that was tracked up by skis, boots, and dogs, all of which made for challenging skiing. THE downhill turn on the A loop which is usually a challenge was simply skipped. And while I usually try to hammer the other downhill turns on the A and B loops, I sort of pussied them today. So it was generally a good balance session but not much of a workout; I'm not sure I even broke a sweat, which is unusual for me. But it was a strikingly sunny day and the fields were beautiful. And at least I was on skis.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Twin Brook

Twin Brook is the home course of trail monster running's TNR. It's also a trail system designed specifically for nordic skiing by olympian and olympic trail designer John Morton (who also designed the system at Pineland Farms). If you ski the trails a couple of times per winter, be sure to pop a couple of bucks each time into the box at the trail head at the first parking lot off of Tuttle Rd. If you ski more than a few times, you should support Twin Brook and local nordic skiing more formally by becoming a member of the Coastal Nordic Ski Club (direct link to membership form). The $15 membership is the price of a day ticket at most Nordic Ski centers and helps defray the cost of maintaining the grooming and snow making equipment.

Yesterday, I classic skied for the first time evah (not counting the 1/2 dozen backcountry skis last winter). I went to Riverside GC, which is usually nicely groomed but, surprisingly, had not yet been groomed this year. And this was a Sunday afternoon following some heavy snow (and of course in the middle of even more epic snow). Not knowing anything about waxing, I used blue kick wax and the snow was sticking to my kick zone. Apparently I needed green or even something called polar, or, if I were hot, I'd just kick it off with each stride. I did about 4.5 miles (most of the trail system were there actually trails there) in a little over 1 hour which is about my average walking pace! I also wore a blister because I was using my skate boots so I guess classic boots are in order (Don't tell Cacky).

Today I did two skis. First, some BC skiing on Blackstrap with Sasha and Rodney. Sasha is really beautiful in the deep snow. She had a blast bounding along. My skiing wasn't such a blast. I'm not sure if people can move through that deep of powder but I couldn't. I went 1 mile in about 35 minutes! Most of that time was trying to herringbone up a couple of small hills.

My second ski was at Twin Brook on my old skate skis. It was great to see all the skiers there - probably about 30 during the hour I was there. I got in 8 miles of easy skating just before dark.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Minor nerve damage

But it was worth it. The FHS nordic team went to Jackson NH today - A town that has adopted xc skiing as it's raison d'etre. James Demer (who is the nordic coach) gave the kids only 1 goal: go long. So four of us decided to take on Hall trail and the maple something loop. This was a 1300 foot climb. 2 hours up. 30 minutes down. My gloves were soaked in sweat on the way up but quickly froze into an ice cube on the way down. Really. I couldn't bend my fingers to grip the pole. When we arrived (late) for lunch, my entire face was covered in ice and I had long frozen stalactites hanging down from where my sideburns would be could I grow facial hair. It's now 11 hours later and tips of 5 of my fingers still feel tingly and numb. It was totally awesome.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Attention: Pineland is now closed to runners

Sweeeeeet! After 4.5 miles of double poling at Riverside GC and behind the FHS yesterday, I got in two skating laps of Oak Hill today on the best 3 inches of snow I've seen! They groomed it with the roller yesterday and possibly today as well. I don't think other trails had been rolled. Pineland skiing is not officially open but after tonight, it should be.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Penultimate Run

Today's 5.2 mile half road/half trail run with the FHS nordic team had a little of everything. A fast first mile (6:04) on the road because I was out back and everyone else left through a side door, five hill repeats including 2 bounding, 1 right legged only, 1 left legged only, and 1 backwards, lots of ice and mud of course, and a relaxing 10 minute last mile while talking to one of the students about his experience teaching (downhill) skiing at sugarloaf. I also had students ask me about side stitches and heart rate training. It feels good to be a part of the team! I'm going to post something on plantar fasciitis tomorrow hopefully.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Camden Hills

I was hoping to hang up the running shoes last Saturday so the lack of skiable snow has me frustrated and cranky. But this morning brought new meaning and beauty to my life. As mentioned in my last post, we fled Falmouth for heat, power, and internet, so this morning I ran a visually stunning 11 mile loop in the Camden Hills. I started on the "multi-use" trail that cuts through the park - From Youngtown Rd.,  it's a nice, long, not-too-steep ascent for just over a mile. The trail itself is an old roadbed that I think was cut by the AMC back in the 30s. It is in beautiful condition; maybe the park just graded it and laid sand on it before winter. I then took the Cameron Mtn. trail, which was like every other trail other than the multi-use trail - running creek and/or endless puddle. Nothing was frozen solid despite the T (about 19-20 deg) so my running form was kind of like that of the football players that run through the trail of tires.

I had not been to Cameron mountain - its not much of a mountain but is a beautiful blueberry barren hill. Not a tree in site. The entire mountain was covered in flaming red, lowbush blueberry (about 6 inches high) that was stunning against the bluebird sky. It looked like the fields of heather from Rannoch Moor in the Scottish highlands. Not surprising given that Blueberry and heather are both in the plant family ericaceae. Also not surprising giving that both this field and the Scottish highlands are artificially treeless (check out the satellite map of Cameron mountain to see the big square of trees that has been removed), although I suspect trees have been gone from Scotland far longer than Cameron Mountain. Anyway, running up the path made me feel like what I think I would have felt if I had run in Scotland. It was an adrenaline rush. Throw on some blue paint and a skirt and I would have smited (smote?) any Englishman in the area.

Following Cameron mountain, my dopamine high quickly cleared as I now had to climb Mount Megunticook on Zeke's then Ridge trail. Water on the Ridge trail was frozen - generally as sheet ice on open rock. I'm not sure screw shoes would have helped. The Ridge trail has grand views across Megunticook lake toward Ragged Mountain and the surrounding hills. The peak is buried in the trees but the trail eventually runs along a cliff edge (the lookout) with an epic view over Camden harbor and Penobscot bay (you get this view if you watch the really poor movie version of Peyton Place - skip it and read the book, it's really quite good). From the lookout, it's a very quick down to the multi-use trail.

Ahh, back to dry, confident footing. On this side of the hill, the Multi-use trail was high enough and the drop-off was steep enough to give a panoramic view of Penobscot Bay and Acadia on the other side. The trail undulates for about 3.5 miles, passing a number of trails coming down from Megunticook and other trails going who-knows-where. In the middle of the park, the trail passes the ski lodge that was built in the 30s. I had friends who rented it last New Years Eve. They skied in and settled down for a cozy night. Until about 2AM when a band of local snowmobilers came through to use it as a party hut (I'm not sure what the lesson is there...I'd really like to rent it and hang out there New Years Eve). Finally, with just over a mile left, the trail begins its long descent. It was much more fun last time I was on this trail, because I was on skis and didn't have to do any work. Still, the gradual downhill was welcome.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Do I need this?

Another day of not running. I was about to head out with the dogs but instead we packed the car and drove to Hope, a suburb of Camden. We needed heat, electricity and the internet - all of which we didn't have at home. So it looks like my SMR will be in the Camden Hills...

I've been pretty happy with my 3rd Garmin Forerunner 205. My first one never recovered from the swim out to the canoe. My second one failed after about 2 months. But the 3rd one has been a charm. Several months ago, it had the occasional habit of mysteriously draining its battery, but I've been careful to take it off the cradle after it's charged and this seems to have solved that problem. And it's pretty good at holding on to satellite signals. I had some trouble in the Smokey Mountains, in a steep ravine in Evan Notch, and curiously, on the "O" trail during the Bruiser. The two issues that I have with it are 1) it's not a 305 so I don't have the HRM and 2) it uses triangulation instead of barometric pressure to get altitude. I am a data junky and the under or oversmoothed altitude estimates are not doing it for me. I can do without a HRM while running, since I can use the McMillan running calculator to set my paces when I feel the need, but I don't have a clue about pacing when I ski.

So, I've now been wasting time looking at the sweet new Polar RS800CX Multi and Suunto X10. (Actually the x10 does not have a HRM either - why not?). Both watches have normal size watch faces, and pretty small type. I like having three screens on my Garmin and being able to switch between them. I like having three or four big numbers on each screen. I like being able to see my cumulative pace (not instantaneous pace!) during my current workout. That and cumulative distance are the two data that I look at most. Even with my (at last check two years ago) 20/20 vision it can be hard to read the numbers on my Garmin during a run or ski, especially in the dim light on a trail with lots of sweat dripping through my eyes. Can anyone read the small numbers on the Polar or Suunto watch without stopping? Can either give me my cumulative pace in minutes per mile (not mph)? Are these watches worth the $500 price tag, especially since I can get a Garmin Forerunner 305 for about $150? I had the Polar RS200SD a few years ago. It was a nice watch but not immune to malfunctioning. On several occasions it would freeze and need to be re-booted. So Garmins don't have the corner on this feature (and since updating the firmware on my 205, I'm not sure that it has frozen).

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I was supposed to do a fartlek with the Falmouth HS nordic team today at Community Park. I got there but saw no one so went to the school. I looked around the school but saw no nordic skiers. Then I learned the school cancelled all after school activities because of the freezing rain that wasn't falling. So I drove home, grabbed Sasha and Rodney, drove back to the school, and did my fartlek on the roads. Five miles home with the dogs then five miles back out to my car. That is a back-and-out. The dogs and I averaged about 7:10 min/mi, which is a pb for them (at least while running on lead). I averaged 7:03 for the whole 10.2 miles and it felt relatively easy. Except my calves are burning from hammering the hills on Tuesday and now today. Being a fartlek, the pace of course, was very uneven (the green line below. Note the dog-marking pit stops and the throw-the-dogs-in-the-house pit stop).

Hill Runs

This week has been a down week. Too much end-of-the-semester work. I did get in a fun workout with James Demer and the Falmouth HS nordic team on Tuesday on a 0.12 mi gravel road behind the high school. Five laps of hill bounding with poles followed by five laps of hard uphill running. Then the whole thing repeated two more times (minus one lap because practice ended). The elevation profile is kind of funny.
There are two humps too few because I accidently hit my stop button instead of my lap button and missed recording 5 minutes of my run. Following this run, my left pinky toe was wicked inflamed, probably from the narrow toe box of the inov8 mudroc 280. Following the run, my kids wanted to go buy games for the new xbox 360 they got for their birthday, so I missed the weekly Trail Monster Running TNR at Twin Brook. Either that or I wasn't in the mood to run through puddles.

Blackstrap Hell: The Video